The clue is in the name of course. Drummer John Blakeley was unashamedly celebrating his near name-sake’s work. The repertoire was anything but cliched and not confined to Art Blakey’s work with the Messengers and John’s musical director brain was fully deployed to make sure we revelled in the attention to detail arranging of even the most familiar of tunes. The formidable expanded front-line of Jake McMurchie on tenor, Kevin Figes on alto and bari, Nick Malcolm on trumpet and local ‘bone man’ Liam Treasure gave plenty of scope for rich arrangements and top drawer blowing. After limbering up on a couple of Blakey classics including Dat Dere, they made full use of that front-line on arrangements of tunes from Kenny Dorham’s Afro Cuban album first Afrodisiac then Basheer’s Dream. Jim Blomfield on piano remainded us of why he’s a local go-to man for blistering latin piano and mesmeric grooving. The highlights were provided by some fabulous blowing. Nick Malcolm bent the familiar materials of Love to Sale to his fluent melodic playing, inserting angular leaps and twisted phrases to keep us guessing. Jake McMurchie blew us away on Politely swooping and wailing at the climax of driving, bluesy solo. The whole band seemed to be enjoying each others company with One for Daddy oh reaching an anarchic, glorious cacophony of a collective roar to finish the evening. Blakeley and fellow rhythm section soldier Jon Short on bass kept the whole thing grooving along. We left with a familiar warm glow and smile on our faces. An account of the evening wouldn’t be complete without mention of the revival of the BeBop Club’s sign, for years displayed on the wall of the club but disappearing after a late 90’s re-furb. Promoter Andy Hague’s delight at its new electronic manifestation was evident as it cast its glow on the band in the second set.
Blakeley’s Messengers, BeBop Club, Friday 31st January